Book Review: The Church

The Church: An Introduction

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Short (the goal of the series), some academic language, but mostly readable. 

Summary – The book is technically broken into two sections, Foundational Issues and Mere Ecclesiology and More Ecclesiology. However, part one, really functions as more of an extended introduction. The two chapters of this section are The Triune God and the Church, and The Church According to Scripture. The latter looks at the different words used for church, gathering, and temple in the Old and New Testaments. 

The bulk of the book is found in part two, which is broken into six chapters – The Identity, Leadership, Government, Ordinances or Sacraments, Ministries, and Future of the Church. The ‘mere’ versus ‘more’ ecclesiology is a rubric of sorts, wherein each chapter he discusses the ‘mere’ of the particular topic first, which is the basic agreements that all churches have now, or have had in the past. The ‘more’ part is where he dives into the differences between various churches or theological views. 

There is also the series introduction, and an introduction by Allison, conclusion, ‘further reading’, and indexes. 

My Thoughts – Allison is a strong writer, who has had success at the popular level. I’ve read a few of his books and always enjoyed them, but something just wasn’t working right in this. It could have been an editor situation, or the way the put the book together, but it often became quite redundant. I mean in a verbatuum since, he would write an intro paragraph for each chapter that end with ‘I will show X in turn’, then ended the chapter with, ‘I have shown X’. It was oddly academic for what I had assumed was meant to be a more popular writing. His Historical Theology text is more readable than parts of this. Additionally, the ‘mere/more’ was repetitive in the same way and a bit contrived. The actual content, outside of the framework, was very accessible and readable. I’m not sure what was going on. 

The content itself, was kind of a mixed bag. I appreciate his defense/discussion on the Trinity, but it didn’t seem to fit. The Church According to Scripture was helpful and interesting. Identity was quick and solid. Leadership was perhaps the worst chapter. He makes the claim that ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ are used interchangeable, which is pretty clear not only in the Greek, but also in the way it is used in the NT. However, he also claims ‘pastor’ is interchangeable with these two terms as well. He offers in example nor any linguistic proof, but rather points to Peter saying that elders should be good shepherds (the word translated is how we get the word pastor). He then quickly moves on. I am not entirely sure why he makes this claim, which is clearly lacking support, but I could speculate a few reasons that are beyond the scope of this review. 

Government, Ordinances, and Future were the strongest parts of the book. He explanation of governing options was one of the clearest concise write-ups I’ve seen. The baptism part of Ordinances was short, but I think that is actually a better way to handle. I’ve seen interesting arguments that there aren’t really four views of communion, but really just three, but he sticks with the traditional four views and does a pretty good job with the nuances. Much like Government, the chapter on the Future of the church was one of the best, concise writings I’ve seen. These two chapters function very well as almost a cliff-notes, without sacrificing too much understanding. 

That being said, this book is still probably not worth your time. While still short, there is too much unnecessary writing and the ‘mere/more’ distinctions really fell a little flat. There are a few strong chapters, but others are mixed. I appreciate what Crossway is trying to do by basically giving you chapters on what would be a Systematic, but meant to be shorter and more readable. However, based on this one, I wouldn’t really recommend that approach. Additionally, there are other books that focus on the Church that are better, though not many hit on the future (but there are hundreds of those). Unless this is a topic you are just starting to read on, and really need somewhere to start (in which case you could benefit from the ‘further reading’ section), this book probably isn’t worth it. 

*I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Stuff From the Week

Articles
NFL to make players stand for the anthem. The owners know their fans are mostly conservative, holding libertarian and small government values, with focus on individual rights, so they are making people stand up during a song about the government. It is almost as if the fans are actually more upset about something else.

Speaking of something else going on, White Evangelicals lead the way!…in rejecting refugees. We were the least likely group survey to support taking in more refugees. For the group that says we take most seriously Biblical Literatlism, we don’t appear to be very good at the whole caring for the widow/orphan/poor/foreigner thing or loving our neighbor. Seemingly unrelated to the article as a whole, they point our towards the end that when asked in 2011 about personal indescritions by the president, we, more than anyone else, said it mattered, but in 2016, we said it mattered the least. The author is clearly pointing it out to kick whatever little shred of moral authority we have left right in the balls. It is pretty embarrassing, and yet another reason we continue to lose the upcoming generation.

Speaking of lost generations, according to the federal reserve, about 40% of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency. On the whole, we remain terrible with money.

Quickly – of course Amazon is recording out conversations, apparently if the president blocks you on twitter it is a violation of your first amendment rights, hopefully the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre will win their case against this nut job, and finally, apparently even the American Military has studied the ‘strategic implications of American Millennialism.’

Podcast
I was going to recommend this Intelligence Squared Debate podcast about denculearization of North Korea, but now the summit has been called off. I didn’t really have a strong stance one way or the other, and after listening to the debate, I’m not sure that has changed. However, there is a lot of good information if you are interested in current foreign affairs. The problem is, our new cycle and events in the world happen too fast. I listened to this, then heard this genius say we should use the ‘Libya Model’ and assumed Kim would call it off. If you don’t know, Moammar Gadhafi was Libya’s leader before he was sodomized by a bayonet and dragged into the street and killed. I’m not foreign policy expert, but that seems like something Kim wouldn’t like to participate in.

Mortification of Spin was an episode up about church polity (governing/administrative structure of the church). It isn’t so much about types of church polity as it is about having an Elder board. Overall, it is an interesting topic to me, and one I’ve gone back and forth on over the years.

Book Review: The Church – Mark Dever

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible – Mark Dever

My Rating –If You are Looking for Something – about Baptist view of church, Probably Not Worth Your Time – if you are already familiar with Baptist views

Level – short, easy read

Summary
This book could basically be a few sections in a Systematic Theology book. One section on Church Polity and the other on the Sacraments. For Polity, he argues for an Elder-led congregational model. As a Baptist he has a strong view of the local church as the be all and end all for the Christian. His nuanced view of ‘Elder-led’ versus ‘Elder-controlled’ is interesting and worth considering.

On the Sacraments, he take the typical protestant view of there only being two, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The latter being the basic Reformed view, with no transformation in the elements. He spends most his time on the former, which makes sense, as he is a Baptist. Credo or Believers baptism is the mode for which he argues. He doesn’t leave room for the idea that both (infant, also) are valid, but instead that you must choose and that it should be Believers baptism.

My Thoughts
Dever is a compelling writer who puts his theology into fairly plain language. For someone interesting in learning more on these topics, but who isn’t familiar with Theological writing, this would be a great start. The only real problem I have with this book probably has more to do with the editor than the author. Many of the chapters appear to be expanded versions of either sermons, journal articles, or some other writings. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but there were literally parts that not only repeated themselves in thought or idea, but did so verbatim.

While I agree with most of what he says, I still find it hard to recommend this book, except in specific situation. Most people would be better off just going ahead and buying a Baptist Systematic Theology like Grudem or Erikson.